Tokyo museum exhibits $250 million Pollock masterpiece

Kyodo

A masterpiece by U.S. artist Jackson Pollock titled “Mural on Indian Red Ground” is being exhibited at a Tokyo museum after being kept in Iran since the 1970s.

The Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art is holding an exhibition of Pollock (1912-1956), including the work on loan from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art that is valued at $250 million.

That is considered the world’s highest right now, exceeding that of another Pollock masterpiece, “No. 5, 1948,” which was traded at about $140 million in 2006, the highest ever at the time.

The painting is on display with some 70 other works for the exhibition titled “Jackson Pollock: A Centennial Retrospective,” which opened Feb. 10 and runs until May 6.

“Mural on Indian Red Ground” was previously exhibited the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in Nagoya from November to January.

Kazuo Nakabayashi, chief curator of the Tokyo museum, said the painting “has been a legend among art circles in the world.”

“Mural on Indian Red Ground” was purchased in 1976 by Empress Farah, the wife of pro-American Shah Pahlavi.

In 1979, the monarchy was overthrown by an anti-American government led by Islamic clerics, whereby the painting was criticized by Islamic conservatives.

Kazutoshi Aikawa, then minister at the Japanese Embassy in Iran, saw the work at an exhibition in Tehran in September 2010.

He told the Tokyo museum, which was planning to hold a retrospective exhibition of Pollock.

The museum had thought it impossible to bring the work from Iran due to Tehran’s hostile relations with Western countries, but began seeking to borrow it, after taking a cue from the embassy.

Hurdles to pull off the loan were high.

A Swiss insurance company rejected allowing the museum to take out insurance on the painting when it is borrowed, citing the possibility that the insurance money, if paid, might be used for nuclear weapons development.

The museum also had to switch the air carrier from Iran Air to Emirates after the Iranian carrier said it was having refueling problems due to international sanctions, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the organizer of the exhibition.

“We trust Japan and think it would be good for relations between Iran and Japan,” Mahmood Shalooei, director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, said.

“We would be willing to lend it to other countries if requested,” he said.